Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Good Friday Service, Brokenness and the Cross

I love to spend Triduum* with my community at the monastery. We have such wonderful, rich liturgies that call me into a space of deep reflection, sorrow, repentance, wonder and joy.

This year I did not make it up to the monastery for Triduum because of my resident chaplaincy work at Abbott Northwest Hospital. I had the opportunity to preside and gather with folks in the Mental Health Unit for a Good Friday service and time of reflection. As I prepared my reflection I found myself at a loss to know what to say to those who would be part of the gathering. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say or could not come up with material – it just seemed out of context with these folks.  How do you talk about the cross with patients who have mental health problems, who daily bear their cross because they are stigmatized, misunderstood in their suffering, marginalized in our society and often looked on with disdain?  Frankly I was at a loss how to communicate the suffering of the cross to these patients.  In desperation I looked on the internet for some reflection resources. I couldn’t find much information and what I did find often felt as if I was trying to put a square block in a round hole.  I was stuck, or at least felt stuck, about how to communicate the meaning of the cross to these folks who have a deep, anguishing faith because of their suffering. I found some words from Henri Nouwen on brokenness and the cross that I tried to reflect on and communicate the following:


Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched. Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced, and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your blood, what it means to be human.”


We broke bread together in the solidarity of our brokenness and suffering and Jesus’ love for us shown on the cross.  I want to fully acknowledge that I truly do not understand completely my brokenness as these folks understand their brokenness. Their brokenness and willingness to embrace the cross of Christ and claim it as Good Friday haunts my soul in mystery.  This Good Friday service impacted my sense of suffering and the meaning of the cross. I still don’t fully comprehend the cross, but I have experienced a whole new sense of the cross – and it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.


*The Triduum (a Latin term meaning ‘three days in one’), stretches for the Mass of the Lord’s supper on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday.


Trish Dick, OSB

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